I'm the Hen Ferchetan. This is my take on the world through the eyes of Wales. While mostly about Welsh politics (that most famous of dour topics!) I try to scatter some humour around, but I doubt anyone but me will find it funny! Have a read, and if it bores you then feel free to never come back!

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

An Insult To Who?

A lot of huffing and puffing has been going on about the new Aneruin/Maggie artwork in the Senedd. Although the project had all-party support, AM's have been linign up to condem it. Bethan Jenkins calls is an insult to Wales (Vaughan Roderick will be pleased to note that no-one has called it a slap in Wales' face...yet!) while Carwyn Jones thinks it's a reminder of why we need the Assembly in the first place.

Having now seen the above photo of the tin sculpture I wonder if this is as much an insult to Wales as it an insult to art! Is that really supposed to be Maggie thatcher? Beats me, the only defining features it has is a pearl neckless and a god-awful perm - it could be any woman over 65!

The Big Match

The final score from the big match today and yesterday is Science 2 -0 Religion. MP's have voted in favour of allowing human-animal embryos and have voted against making it harder to get an abortion by changing the time limits. Good for them I say.

In other voting news, Dustin the Irish Turkey has failed to make it into the Eurovision Song Contest Final. He was knocked out in yesterday's first semi final by some of Europe's voters (only half the countries could vote, the other half, including UK vote on tomorrow's semi). The winners were Azerbaijan, Armenia, Greece, Romania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Finland, Russia, Israel, Poland and Norway. I only saw a glimpse of the programme, enough to know that Armenia's contestant was worth watching, if not worth listening to, while Azerbaijan's entry was just plain scary!

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Over the Border

Brown/Cameron's big day is close (delete as appropriate). On thursday the people of Crewe and Nantwich go to the polls in a "safe" Labour seat. The daughter of their late MP is standing for Labour, a woman known to us in Wales as the ex-AM for Preseli.

The by-election will have a big impact on national politics, either as the re-birth or the death knell of Gordon. Labour's 7,000 majority is in big trouble, polls have put the Tories ahead and in a winning position.

As you'd expect with such big stakes things have gotten nasty. Labour have classed the Tory candidate as a toff snob who knows nothing about how Crewe and Nantwich people feel. Their reasoning is that the Tory candidate Edward Timpson is rich, a barrister and lives just outside the constituency. Timpson is the son of the owner of the Timpson cobblers and keysmiths. A huge company worth millions and millions. Labour have sent men in top hat and tails to follow Edward Timpson around, and campaigners make numerous references ti his Bentley and mansion. Labour leaflets include a mock up Tory Candidate application form asking "Do you live in a mansion?" and "Do you think regeneration is adding another wing to your mansion?". The Labour candidate told BBC

I don’t have a £53m pound fortune supporting me. I don’t have a £1.5m mansion. I am just a single, unemployed mother of five fighting hard for a job

The problem for Labour is that their candidate is Moyra Tamsin Dunwoody-Kneafsey, granddaughter of Baroness Phillips and owner of a £850k house set in 1.5 acres of land (twice the size of the Tory's). And while her tagline is "tamsin Dunwoody, one of us" this house she owns and lives in is in South West Wales, a full 175 miles from Crewe. Hardly a "woman of the people" fighting against the big toff is she!

Finally of course, i have to snigger at her description of herself as an "unemployed mother of five fighting hard for a job". All that is true, but she failed to point out that the reason she is unemployed is that Preseli Pembrokshire voters dumped her in May 2007 after one term!

Pram Minus Toys = Labour

The Welsh politics blogs are having a collective giggle at Welsh Labour today after an article in the Western Mail this morning informed us of the anger and dissapointment within Labour and directed towards Plaid Cymru. Apparently many within Welsh Labour (although, true to form, Western Mail only has anonomous quotes!) are deeply hurt that their partners in Cardiff are running off to form alliances with every Tom Dick and Harry across Welsh councils.

Plaid Cymru are in coalitions without Labour in Caerphilly, Cardiff, Anglesey, Wrexham and Swansea. Only in Conwy are the two parties sharing a bed. The "unnamed sources" told the Mule that

by ganging up against Labour in a large number of councils, they call into question their commitment to the One Wales deal.

If that is how Welsh Labour relly thinks then someone should have told welsh Secretary Paul Murphy of that, only three months ago he was bellowing out to the party conference:

Let no-one tell you that we will not be campaigning as hard as ever against Plaid Cymru. We may be sharing power with them in the assembly but there is no wider pact

The story can only be seen in the proper light however when you realise that the senior person the Mule is quoting is not an AM, not even a bitter MP. He's a senior south-Wales councillor. That probably makes him an ex-cabinet member of Torfaen, Merthyr or, most probable of all, Caerphilly, a man who's lost a big pile of power on May 1st and who wants to lash out.

If a Labour AM was kicking this kind of strop it would be newsworthy - a bitter local councillor mouthing off is nothing new.

The other thing or senior councillor is sulking about is this:

A lot of the people I speak to in the party are also angry at the lack of public profile Labour Assembly Ministers are getting. Rhodri Morgan seems almost to have disappeared, although he was shown on TV at the FA Cup final. The impression is that Plaid ministers are on TV all the time

I bet that Plaid members can't stop giggling reading that!

Saturday, 17 May 2008

Friday, 16 May 2008

Hmm I Wonder

A Daily Mirror reader writes in to his favorite paper saying...

I don't understand why Sarah Ferguson has such a low self image

I would advise the worried writer to turn to page 29 of the same edition where regular Mirror columnist Paul Routledge says...

Britain is eating itself to death says the Duchess of Pork, oh sorry York. She's certainly doing her best to help, having ballooned to 15st 10lbs at one point.

Yes, i wonder just why she has such a low self-image...!

Thursday, 15 May 2008

Question Time Cardiff

Question Time tonight (11pm BB1 Wales, 10.35pm BB1EverywhereElse) is from the Armadillo down the Bay. Helen Mary Jones is the token Welsh politician, flanked by London Health Secretary Alan Johnson, Tory shadow minister for business (and sometimes Have I Got News For You wannabe comedian) Alan Duncan, Cherie Blair's sister and one of the ex-Dragons Den millionaires Simon Woodroffe.

If you're sad enough to be getting drunk while watching a politicial talk programme, here's a drinking game for you...

- 2 fingers every time the Tory mentions 10p tax
- 2 fingers every time Helen Mary brags about the Plaid-LD deal in Cardiff
- 2 fingers every time Alan Johnson discusses London's health policy even though it has no impact on Cardiff
- 2 fingers every time Lauren Booth tries to explain how different she is from her sister
- 2 fingers each time rich boy Woodroffe mentions his time on Dragons Den or Yo! Sushi

- And finally - Down your whole drink on the obligatory question on whether or not the panel will be supporting cardiff City on Saturday.

Update: The Tory mentioned the tax often enough to get you very drunk, Woodroffe managed to fit in Yo! Sushi into his first answer and you would have had to down the drink as the Cardiff City question came along (what a surprise!)

Apparently, according to Dimbelby, Question Time cannot spend a single second discussing Welsh Assembly matters in their Cardiff programme because people outside Wales won't understand it but it can devote a whole question to over-testing of young kids. We had to depend on the audience to point out that there are much less tests in Wales (no Primary school sats)

I also love how poor the Lib Dem stooge who asked the Welsh Assembly question was at hiding the fact that he was a stooge!

Capital Ruled

Cardiff already has the "One-Wales" coalition, now it has the "Capital Vision" coalition

The Lib-Dems and Plaid have signed a coalition deal to run Cardiff. The Libs, being by far the largest party, have Rodney Berman back in the Council leader role and have most of the cabinet seats. Neil McEvoy, Plaid's group leader and a man who until two weeks ago had a very un-friendly relationship with Rodney, becomes Deputy Leader.

Plaid will have one other cabinet spot along with the Chair of the scrutiny committee and the regulatory committee. The rst will go to the Lib Dems.

And, as predicted by none other than yours truly (wehei!), the deal-maker was an amendment to the Libs failed school reorganisation plan. In a weird situation Plaid had previously refused to vote for a plan opening more Welsh-language schools because it meant English-language schools closing. I understand that the new deal will open a new welsh-language primary and a new welsh-language secondary school - without closing the English Lansdown and Radnor. The new primary will be in Canton, the new Secondary somewhere in the city centre.

Other parts of the deal include:

Halal food made available in some schools
No congestion charge
The free bicycle scheme you see when abroad
Upgrade sport pitches
Try and get powers to suspend the right to buy council houses

All of those are very plaid-centric policies (no sup rise seeing as how I'm learning about them through a Plaid statement!) I'm sure there's many more Lib Dem centric policies, we'll see.

Interesting two last parts to the agreement. Firstly the Council will give a day off to all of it's staff on St David's Day. Secondly the Council will actively support the Yes campaign whenever the referendum for powers comes.

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

End of the Road

Ex-Democratic Cadidate John Edwards is apparently poised to back Obama in the next few hours.

I think the technical term for that is Game Set and Match to Obama.

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Bring Them On

The Scottish Political Editor for the Herald, Douglas Fraser, has a new scoop which is set to rock the Wendy-Gordon relationship even further...

Wendy Alexander is set to announce a new challenge to the SNP about the commonwealth Games in Glasgow. Scheduled for 2014, she is to tell Alex Salmond to "bring them on" – arguing that if the SNP is genuine in its enthusiasm for staging the Games in Glasgow, it should legislate for them to take place the year before then, in 2013.

Labour's thinking is that it needs to show "the hollowness of the SNP's commitment to the Commonwealth Games". According to one insider: "If New Delhi can stage the games in 2010, what on earth are we waiting for? If Alex Salmond were really behind Glasgow's games, he could even try to get in ahead of the Indian capital and have the Games next year."

The sudden shift of tactics is understood to have caused tensions with Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who fears that if Scottish Labour wants the Glasgow Commonwealth Games to be staged one year earlier than planned, he may come under pressure to bring the London Olympics forward to 2011 - potentially sending costs soaring. His spokesman says is is "not persuaded" of the case for "bringing them on", despite Ms Alexander telling associates she thinks he has agreed.

If the SNP First Minister refuses to bring forward the date of the Commonwealth Games, instead sticking to the existing timetable, sources close to Wendy Alexander say that she will be able to claim that she has called Alex Salmond's bluff, and she will label him "a cowardly custard".

A bit of satire will always raise a smile!

Anyone Speak German?

First a post about France, now about Germany - I'm getting world-wise!

In a pathetically vain exercise I typed the name of this blog into Google Blog Search (I know I know, how sad!) and found this paragraph from a German Blog

Das würde den Seperatisten Tür und Tor öffnen und die Chancen wären gar nicht so schlecht das ihr Vorhaben gelingt (siehe auch AMLWCH TO MAGOR). Aber der Vorschlag kam nun einmal nicht von Gordon Brown selbst, denn der zusammen mit den anderen große Parteien eine Kommission eingesetzt, welche das Referendum unterlaufen soll, indem es weitergehende Autonomie an den nördlichen Landesteil zugesteht.

The only things I understand there are Seperatism, Autonomous, Referendum and Gordon Brown, so i assume it's talking about the Wendy-Gordon hoo-ha. Intertran is (obviously) no help - Any German speakers out there?

Monday, 12 May 2008

By-Election Fears

We are closing in on the Crewe and Nantwich by-election where ex-Am Tamsin Dunwoody is standing for Labour in her late mother's seat. Polling indicate that Labour's 7,000 plus majority will be overturned by the Tories. Incredibly the Tories have not gained a seat in a by-election since Mitcham and Morden in 1983 - that's 25 whole years!

Thee have not won a previously Labour seat in a by-election since Ilford North in 1978 - a whole three decades ago!

I see more "worst week ever ever for Brown - honestly now" headlines on the horizon (copyright of the Daily Mail, Daily telegraph, Independent, Guardian, Daily Express, Sun, Mirror, Western Mail, Daily Post and the Tivy-Side Advertiser!)

Uncyclopedia on Wales

Browsing around the internet I found this site - Uncyclopedia.

It's a satirical take on wikipedia - and some of the pages on Wales are very well done.

Take a look at the Welsh Language page, the Cardiff page and Aberystwyth page

Top marks goes to the Wales page. Who ever said the Welsh couldn't laugh at themselves!

Be Glad

The (absence of) the new Welsh language LCO is back in the news following Rhodri Glyn's (re)announcement that 57 more bodies are to be brought under the old Welsh Language Act. Cymdeithas yr Iaith (Welsh Language Society) have criticised the announcement and demanded a new Welsh Language Act.

The scope of such new Act is something that will be argued and debated until Judgement Day, but Welsh speakers should be glad that they're not speaking a minority language in France. The French have refused to sign the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. According to French Culture Miniser Mme Christine Albanel having "an inviolable right to speak a regional language, notably in the public sphere" is "against constitutional priniples fundamental to the indivisbility of the Republic, equality in front of the law and the unity of the French people"

I'm off to use InterTran to work out how to paint "Shut Up French" in Breton, Basque and Catalan on a barn!

Something of the Night

Wendy Alexander appeared on the Scottish Politics Show yesterday, and gosh was it painful. She seems to have been left dazed and confused by the past week or so, and is trying desperately to portray herself, and Labour, as the "winners" of the happenings of the last week. Listening to her mumble and stutter it reminded me of Michael Howard's famous "Did you threaten to overrule" interview in that she simply couldn't answer the question put to her.

Clearly Wendy had prepared a stock answer to the expected question on the referendum (something to do with "exposing the SNP's hollowness" and "Gordon Brown has endorsed my right to choose tactics") and stuck by them, even when they didn't answer the questions asked!

You can see the interview here. Thankfully Ordovicius has provided a transcript of the interview, and it deserves to be quoted here...

Glenn Campbell: Factual question first of all: Who is the leader of the Labour Party in Scotland?

Wendy Alexander MSP: [sighs] Gordon Brown is the leader of the Labour Party and I am leader of the Labour Party in the Scottish Parliament, and I think that goes to the heart of this issue, because...

Glenn Campbell: He's the leader in Scotland as well as elsewhere in the country..

Wendy Alexander MSP: Yes.

Glenn Campbell: In those circumstances then, when he's told the Telegraph newspaper this morning that he was "not persuaded" of the case of a referendum, was he speaking for the Scottish Labour Party?

Wendy Alexander MSP: No and he wouldn't seek to do so. What he was saying is laying out his position on the referendum. Where Gordon and I are at one is we want to expose the hollowness of the SNP and I have the First Minister's -Prime Minister's support- in pursuing whatever tactics are right in the Scottish Parliament. I mean this goes to the heart of the devolution settlement...

Glenn Campbell: But this is fascinating, you're saying that the Prime Minister who is as you've acknowledged the leader of the Labour Party everywhere, that his position is not the same as the position of the Scottish Labour Party.

Wendy Alexander MSP: No, what the Prime Minister said to me this week was that he supported my right to pursue whatever tactics we need to pursue in the Scottish Parliament to expose the hollowness of the SNP's position, and what we've learned this week is that the SNP are unwilling to let Scotland speak...

Glenn Campbell: We'll come onto that in a moment. Is this your universal declaration of the independence for the Labour Party at Holyrood?

Wendy Alexander MSP: No, far from it. What I've been about is so we can say that the SNP have been in power for a year, it's quite clear that their agenda is to fray the relationship with the rest of the UK, they want to parade around Scotland claiming there's support for independence, manifestly there's not...

Glenn Campbell: Are you going to toe the London-Labour Party line?

Wendy Alexander MSP: No what it's..it's not about towing a line it's about tactics in the Scottish Parliament to harry and expose the dishonesty of the SNP is one for Labour in the Scottish Parliament, and I have the support of the Labour Party in doing that.

Glenn Campbell: Even if that means gambling with the constitutional future of Scotland?

Wendy Alexander MSP: I don't think it's gambling with the constitutional future of Scotland to say we trust the people. I mean a year ago Labour in Scotland lost an election and I said we would listen. We've listened to people in Scotland and I think two things they want is that we look again at devolution, and through the Calman Commission which I proposed we're doing that, and the second thing is that Scotland does want to have its say and I think in a moment you'll have the Tories on...they have to explain why they think Scotland shouldn't have a say in the matter, and the SNP have to tell us why they don't believe Scotland should have a chance to speak before the next general election.

Glenn Campbell: Okay, well can you help us with a few things: If the Prime Minister is not persuaded of the case for an independence referendum why did you tell Newsnight Scotland on Tuesday that he had endorsed your call?

Wendy Alexander MSP: I said that he had endorsed my right to pursue whatever tactics were right in the Scottish Parliament to expose the SNP, including my right to call on them.

Glenn Campbell: What you were asked was, did the Prime Minister endorse your call for a referendum and you answered 'Yes'.

Wendy Alexander MSP: The Prime Minister has endorsed my right as the leader of Labour in the Scottish Parliament to do whatever we think it takes to expose the hollowness of the SNP.

Glenn Campbell: But that's not what you said.

Wendy Alexander MSP: Well let me make this clear. On Wednesday the SNP refused our challenge, they confirmed it again on Thursday...

Glenn Campbell: But..you said you had spoken to the Prime Minister earlier that evening, and when asked directly if he endorsed your call for a referendum, you said 'Yes'. That's not true.

Wendy Alexander MSP: He has endorsed the right of Labour in the Scottish Parliament to lead on how we expose the SNP in the Scottish Parliament.

Glenn Campbell: But he has not endorsed your call for an early referendum.Wendy Alexander MSP: He's endorsed the right of Labour in Scotland...Glenn Campbell: Has he endorsed your call for a referendum?

Wendy Alexander MSP: Well I mean understandably I am not -and this is important- I am not calling on the Prime Minister in Westminster to pursue a referendum. I think people would think that was a very odd thing to happen in Westminster. This is about whether in Scotland...

Glenn Campbell: Isn't Westminster the only parliament that can call a referendum that would be binding?

Wendy Alexander MSP: Well, the SNP have put forward a proposal to call for a referendum in Scotland, we've said that there's no blank cheque but we will look at that issue, and they've declined, declined the chance to let Scotland speak...

Glenn Campbell: But obviously Gordon Brown has declined the opportunity to back your call for an early referendum on independence. Isn't the truth in all of this that what you did was try to bounce him into support by broadcasting his support on Newsnight on Tuesday?

Wendy Alexander MSP: No, I think what yo see is the press having a lot of fun this week. The big issue...I mean look at the press today, the Prime Minister is clear in his support for me, as people know we're great friends, we go back a long way, the issue is whether the tactics for pursuing the SNP in Scotland is the arena where Labour in Scotland lead in the Scottish Parliament, we have done so this week, goodness me, you spent years telling us that we should take the initiative. We take the initiative, put the SNP behind the eight ball, and the SNP's bluff was called. They are as yellow as the colour yellow that supports their party.

Glenn Campbell: Do you accept though that the SNP's referendum is now the only chance of a public vote on Scotland's constitutional future?

Wendy Alexander MSP: No, well self-evidently it's not. I mean the Tories and the Liberals have to explain to people why they believe that Scots have no right to speak on this issue. What happened this week and what history will record is that Labour was saying 'We do think'. This issue's been around for thirty years, the SNP are lying when they say a majority of people in Scotland supports independence...

Glenn Campbell: But this position you've already clarified is not Labour's position. This is Wendy Alexander's position. It may be the position of the Labour group at Holyrood but it is not the Labour Party's position, it's not the Prime Minister's position, it's not the position of the UK cabinet, including your own brother. It's your position, you tried to bounce them, and it didn't work.

Wendy Alexander MSP: No. The decision as to whether the referendum has support in the Scottish Parliament is a matter for the Labour group in the Scottish Parliament. Part of devolution is to say we will harry the SNP to bring forward a bill to let Scotland choose, and the SNP are not letting us do so.

Glenn Campbell: Well they say that they'll bring forward their bill on January 2010, and they say that they'd like to hold the referendum in the autumn of 2010 after the last possible date for the UK general election. In those circumstances will you back their bill?

Wendy Alexander MSP: What we've said is that we do want Scotland to choose, we'll scrutinise their bill, I've been saying that all week, what is deeply dishonest...

Glenn Campbell: Will you back their bill though?

Wendy Alexander MSP: Well there's no blank cheques here. We want to see the bill, we want to see the question, but I...

Glenn Campbell: But instinctively you're in favour of a referendum now?

Wendy Alexander MSP: I have called the SNP's bluff. They will not let Scotland speak.

Glenn Campbell: They're sticking to their manifesto commitment!

Wendy Alexander MSP: No, the reason for this is they want to fray the relationship with the rest of the UK for the whole of the foreseeable future...

Glenn Campbell: Now I understand something of the politics of independence, what I don't understand yet in this interview: whether or not you are going to lead Labour MSPs to support an independence referendum in 2010?

Wendy Alexander MSP: We have said that the people of Scotland should be allowed to speak and we will not vote down the opportunity for Scotland to speak, but we will want to harry them on things like what the question is, what the process is, we think it is right after thirty years that Scotland be given the chance to speak, and I just want to say...

Glenn Campbell: But this is really important, because you're now saying...I'd like you to clarify, are you saying here right now that you are going to back the SNP's independence referendum -with a couple of caveats- and theefore there shall be a referendum before the next Holyrood elections?

Wendy Alexander MSP: Well we have said this week that we believe that the voice of Scotland should be heard and the SNP are running scared, and they have got to stop claiming as Nicola Sturgeon claimed this week that there is majority support for independence. The truth is that they are running scared and they are trying to wait for a time that is politically oportune to them and they have also made clear this week, most importantly, that they are willing to put David Cameron into number 10...

It hurts just to read it doesn't it!

Friday, 9 May 2008

Spinning Harri

New London Mayor Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson (honestly!) has hired a new Director of Communications to spin his way through his term as the Chief of the English capital.

The man with the impossible job of containing Boris is ex BBC Cymru, BBC Wales and BBC reporter Guto Harri.

Apparently Guto has spent the last few weeks advising the ex-opposition and future leader (but currently who knows what) of Zimbabwe Morgan Tsvangirai. According to Guto Harri

If I can handle Zimbabwean politics I should be able to handle Boris Johnson

Don't be so sure!

Scottish Strains

A couple of days ago I noted that Wendy Alexander had, in the face of disastrous local election for the English and Welsh parts of Labour and having seen polls showing SNP popularity continuing to surge, decided that she wanted a referendum on Scottish independence right now. I thought that this would get interesting very quickly, and it sure has!

Wendy had told the media of her new plan and had confirmed that Gordon Brown supported her. Only the next day Gordon Brown told the Commons that Wendy had not ion fact called for a referendum and that we all misheard. Back comes Wendy at First Minister's Questions, again making it clear that she wanted the referendum but also claiming that Gordon Brown was not wrong.


It's quite clear what's happened here. Wendy has, for some time, thought that the best option was to get a referendum ASAP. She is confident that the British Nationalists would win a referendum in 2008/09, especially if she gets to set the question asked. She is scared that if Scotland waits until 2010, when there may well be a Tory government in London and the SNP polls would have continued to rise then the Union may be in trouble. She is also concerned about Alex Salmond getting to choose the question asked.

Numerous polls on independence have had numerous different result - ranging from 19% support to 41% support (with 40% against). The varying factor is the question. If the question contains a reference to £leaving the Union" or "breaking up the Union" then support for independence falls. If the question is the one Alex wants "something along the lines of "would you support the Scottish government entering independence negotiations with the UK government " the yes vote soars. Wendy's thinking therefore is that a quick snap referendum will get the results the Brit Nats want.

Gordon Brown is not so keen. Apparently Wendy has been bugging him about this for some time, and he has always ruled against a referendum. This makes sense, he is after all Mr Prudence and he does not want to be the man who "lost" the Union. He sees the referendum as a risk they should avoid at all costs. As far as Gordon was concerned, his word was final.

But then things changed, Brown got humiliated on May 1st, and Wendy sensed an opportunity to bounce him. She made the unilateral policy switch, told the world that Gordon supported her, then sat back and waited for Gordon to confirm this. She, wrongly, thought that he would have to do so to save face. Unfortunately for Wendy, Gordon didn't play ball. Now we're left with the two leaders saying the total opposite but laughably insisting that they are in agreement!

To make matters worse for Wendy, she's now been told that it is impossible for her to force an early referendum. The SNP are in government and Holyrood rules state that if the government are planning a bill on an issue, no other MSP can do a separate bill. Since the SNP are planning a referendum bill for 2010, Wendy has no power to bring in an earlier bill. In other words her risky bluff was all for nothing.

Where does that leave Scotland, and where does it leave Wendy? Hard to tell. The SNP will not budge - they had 2010 as the referendum date in their manifesto and can point out that they have a mandate to wait until then. The problem now for Wendy is that when the SNP bill comes before Holyrood it will be on the SNP's terms and using the SNP's wording. She can't vote against it as that would be another u turn (making a full circle). Has she just sold herself, her party and the Union down the river?

Late Lib

Mike German has announec that he will step down as Lib Dem leader in October this year. You'd have imagined that such an announcement would have been music to the years of some of the other Liberal AM's (i.e. Peter Black and Kirsty Williams). The leadership election that never was last year can now begin for real.

Peter Black however seems to be fuming. He wants his shot at the top now, not in 6 months time. Peter believes that Mike German had promised to step down straight after the local elections and indicates that the Assembly Group were at best unhappy with the October date.

And, to be fair to Peter, this is true. In October 2007 Mike German said that he would step down

as soon as seems sensible and practicable (after the local elections)

Ah well Peter, it's only a few more months. Don't you remember the Guinness ads? All that about good things come to those who wait. Just 6 months from now you'll finally be able to enjoy the moment that Kirsty becomes the new Welsh Lib Dem leader.

Monday, 5 May 2008

This Could Get Interesting

When your party receives a mid-term drubbing in the polling stationthe most important thing to do is not panic and go do something that could make things much worse. You should sit back, take a deep breath and try and work out what went wrong and how to remedy it.

Somebody forgot to tell Wendy Alexander, leader of the Scottish Labour Party.

Even though not one Scottish voter cast judgement on May 1st the results in Wales and England, along with the surge in support for the SNP I've previously discussed, ha put Wendy into panic mode. Fellow Labour MSP's knew nothing about her decision to announce in a BBC interview that Scottish Labour would support a referendum on independence. This is a complete u-turn from the party's previous position and means that between the SNP and Labour there is enough Holyrood votes to make the referendum a reality.

This WILL be interesting!

Saturday, 3 May 2008

Aftermath Snippets

Just a few additional snippets from the aftermath of the elections.

Labour will regain power in Bridgend as they have done a deal with two independents. The previous "Everyone but Labour" coalition is therefore out and this has to be chalked up as a Labour success. I'm sure however that Labour is still gutted it didn't get the additional seat it needed for an outright majority, that would have given them much-needed good press.

Plaid are apparently confident of running Gwynedd, Carmarthenshire and Caerphilly. They are easily the largest party in Gwynedd and Carmarthenshire, and obtaining power in the latter would be a big coup for them. They are level with Labour in Caerphilly and although I personally don't know who 8 of the 9 power-wielding independents are, Plaid seem confident that at least 5 will support them. In case you are wondering, the 1 independent I do know a bit about, and you will too, is none other than Ron Davies, the father of devolution. His wife was also elected as a Plaid councillor. What price Ron Davies working with Plaid against Labour?

Just in case Gordon Brown isn't depressed enough to have been trounced by the Tories in England he will this morning learn that a new poll in Scotland puts SNP support at it's highest ever point of 45%.

Finally, Plaid members are pointing out that they have a majority of Council seats within the Cardiff West constituency. I'm sure that will go down well with the sitting Assembly member for Cardiff West (A little-known AM called First Minister Rhodri Morgan!)

Who, What and Where

So election day is over for another month and, for once, we actually had quite an interesting local election that has left countless ex-Councillors £15,000 a year worse off. Here's the blow-by-blow of each council.

Lot of councillors booted out on the island, but mostly independents losing to independents. Labour will spin their +5 as a great result, but most of those were independent councillors who had been booted out of the party by Labour in 2004 for making deals with Plaid who have now been greeted back into the fold. The most notable result was infamous planning committee member John Arthur Jones being thrashed by Plaid. Both the Tories and Lib Dems also made gains as the Council remains NOC.

Labour, very predictably, lose control of Blaenau Gwent to NOC. 8 of their Councillors get the boot, mostly to independents. Labour has now lost all of it's Blaenau Gwent power; the Council, the London seat and the Assembly seat.The independents could stick the knife in and prevent Labour from even being part of the administration here.

Along with Neath, the good news area for Labour. They gained 5 seats with the Lib Dems, Tories and independents slipping. Unfortunately for Labour this left them 1 seat short of seizing the Council from NOC. The "Everyone-But-Labour" coalition will struggle without an outright majority.

UPDATE:BBC reports that Labour have struck a deal with two independents, meaning that they will form a cabinet.

Probably the Council that's hardest to guess where it goes from here after Labour loses to NOC. Labour losses to Plaid sees them both with 32 seats. The balance of power is held by the 9 independents - whichever party can reach an agreement with at least 5 of them will rule Caerphilly.

An absolute disaster for Labour in the capital with the loss of 14 seats. The Tories, Lib Dems and Plaid all benefit in a council that remains NOC. The school re-organisation plans is the key here. Plaid voted against the proposals last time, angering many of their supporters in doing so. Demand for Welsh-language education in the capital far outstrips demand and the failure to agree a re-organisation has left the system in a spin. If the Lib Dems make some token changes to their plan, leaving a few more English-language schools open, then expect Plaid to support it and a Yellow-Green coalition to rule Cardiff.

Probably Plaid's greatest success this time round. A gain of 14 seats from Labour gives them a total of 30. Not enough to seize the Council from NOC, but still significant. Since 1999 Carmarthen is the one place where Plaid has truly managed to turn Green. Adam Price has made the previously safe Dr Alan Labour seat a Plaid stronghold and come next year Plaid will have an outside shot of the Llanelli scalp. Helen Mary has the Assembly seat and yesterday Plaid seized some big Labour seats in the Saucepan Town.

Plaid won't be sure whether they should celebrate or curse their luck in Ceredigion. A gain of 3 seats makes them easily the largest party but they were 3 seats short of seizing the Council from NOC. Their candidate for the Lib Dem held parliamentary seat also lost his Council seat making a big dent in their hopes of recapturing Ceredigion next year. In a typical Lib Dem maneuver their MP worked hard in the ward of the Plaid candidate and will be very pleased with the result. Plaid need to convince three of the 12 independents to support them if they are to take control of Ceredigion - but expect the Council to continue to be ruled by an "Everyone-but-Plaid" Alliance.

Great result for the Tories, gaining 8 seats in an area where they will hope to win a London seat next year. Plaid saw a small gain while Labour, Lib Dems and the Independents lost ground. The Council remains NOC with the Tories easily the biggest party and Plaid pushing Labour to third place.

Very similar to Conwy, the Tories make big gains in a Council that remains NOC, this time at the expense of independents. Small gains for Plaid and the Lib Dems while Labour sit still.

Another catastrophe for Labour, 13 councillors lose their seat as the Council slips to NOC. Independents and Tories make the big gains with Plaid sitting still and the Lib Dems gaining 1.

The fly in Plaid's ointment in this election, their stronghold slips to NOC. If any of the Council elections has to be looked at separately, this is it. While Plaid lost 8, Labour also lost 4 and the Lib Dems lost 1. The Tories remain nonexistent. The big winners were independents and Llais Gwynedd -the protest party set up to oppose the Council's school reorganisation plan. Plaid lose their Council leader as well as Dafydd Iwan, the Party's President. Don't be surprised however if Plaid actually get a majority here before 2012 -if they humbly back off the school plan then they might well entice 3 of the independents/Llais Gwynedd into their fold before the next election. The national party has to be fuming at their Gwynedd councillors for creating this situation as it puts a bad spin on what was otherwise a good day for the nationalists.

Another Labour loss to NOC. Independents and Lib Dems benefit. Independents now have the number to control this council without either of the big named parties.

One of the "sure fire bets" of the election as the Tories hold with an increased majority. Lib Dems also make gains while Labour and Plaid slip a little.

Easily Labour's best result of the day.The collapse of the Ratepayer's Association saw Labour gain 1 seat and retain control of the Council. Plaid and the Lib Dems also made small gains.

Labour's last city is lost to NOC.Even though there are 6 seats still to be determined (elections postponed due to the death of two candidates) Labour cannot regain their majority. The best they can hope for is to get exactly half the seats. Their fate was sealed when two 3-seat wards went to a recount - Labour eventually lost half of them. The loss of 8 seats leaves them only 2 ahead of the Tories. We will probably have to wait until the last 6 seats are determined before we know where the balance of power lies. If Labour gets them all, they could deal with the 1 independent to get a working majority. If any of the other 3 parties get just one of the seats, a Rainbow coalition could rule in Wales' second City.

A Labour slip at the expense of the Tories leave all three big parties with 5 seats. The Lib Dems follow closely with 3 but, as usual in this NOC Council, the power on Pembroke remains with the independents.

The Tories take nine seats from the independents, but Powys is, and always will be, a NOC Council ruled by the independents.

Labour hold on comfortably but take a hit of 12 seats. Chris Bryant's "Plaid are dead in Rhondda" rings a little hollow as the nationalists gain 7 seats. Plaid actually took 10 from Labour, but lost a seat each to the Lib Dems, independents and, surprisingly, the Tories. Rhondda now has a Tory councillor - now those are words I never though I'd be saying!

Not much change here. Only thing of note is Plaid losing 3 out of their 4 councillors-not a good result for them. Council remains NOC, Labour remains largest party.

A bad night for Labour would have seen them lose Newport, Blaenau Gwent, Caerphilly and Flint. Losing Torfaen to NOC was not in the script, not even in the script of their disaster movie. 16 Labour Councillors were booted out, mostly to Independents. Both the Tories and Plaid made gains, pushing the Lib Dems from 2nd to 4th place.

Again very predictably the Tories seize control of the Vale from NOC, the only Council to be "won" by anyone in this election. They took 5 councillors from labour and Plaid - enough for a 3 seat majority.

Labour decimated in North Wales' only city. Even with the threat of Forward Wales now dead, Labour continued to slip. The Lib Dems emerge as the largest party while Plaid will be thrilled to get their first four seats on the Council that remains NOC.

So how will the parties feel?

LABOUR will undoubtedly be dismayed. They lost well over a hundred councillors in Wales. They will blame the results on the London party and on economic forces they could not control. The fact that Labour lost big in England, and that Ken lost to Boris, will support this evaluation. What makes this result so bad for Labour is that it was a defeat after a defeat. 2004 was a disaster for Labour, to fall back even further in 2008 leaves them weak across the country. They will be fearing next year's general election, although any defeats there will be seen in the UK wide context of what is likely to be a very bad election. If they do lose in 2009 they may well be able to regroup by 2012 and regain some of these losses. It is incredible that they now have exactly the same number of Councils in Wales as the Tories do!

The TORIES will be very happy. While they didn't romp home in style they made gains nearly everywhere, getting about 50 extra councillors. They consolidated their control of Momouth and took the Vale of Glamorgan. They had hopes of doing much better in the Capital but won't let that dampen their joy. A very solid result, not exceptional but very solid none the less. The party's gains in England and London will probably overshadow their Welsh gains however.

PLAID will, eventually, see this as a good election. They made gains across the board and have four Councils within their grasps come the next election (Need 3 seats in Ceredigion and Gwynedd, 5 in Caerphilly and 7 in Carmarthen). They won seats in Wrexham and could have a big say as a junior partner in the Capital. In the short term however Plaid will be devastated to lose their only Council, Gwynedd. While they will eventually accept that Gwynedd succumbed to local issues (namely the education reform plan) and isn't a reflection of their national position they will suffer in the short term from the bad press. They will also be less confident of regaining the London Ceredigion seat after their candidate lost his place on the Council. An interesting note to cheer up Plaid. Even though in 1999 they ruled 3 councils (Gwynedd, Rhondda, Caerphilly) and now rule none - they have two more Councillor today than they had in 1999, which was supposedly a "one-off freak" result.

The LIB DEMS will probably feel the opposite of Plaid. In the short term they will see this as a very satisfactory result, they consolidated their status as largest party in most of their Cities and overall won about 15 councillors. They showed that the protest vote they got in 2004 was not just about Iraq and showed that the Welsh party has, to some extent, regrouped after their 2007 calamities. In the long term however this result might not be seen as quite so successful. Labour is even more unpopular now than it was in 2004, both the Tories and Plaid made much bigger gains than the Lib Dems. They now find themselves as the fifth party of Welsh local politics, slipping behind the Tories (Independents are first). Their Ceredigion MP will be very happy to have orchestrated the fall of his Plaid opponent-to-be.

And there we go, the 2008 Welsh local elections are done and dusted. Another 12 months now until we go into General Election mode, then another 12 months until it's the European Parliament time and then another 12 months until it's Assembly elections again. There will also (maybe) be a referendum to fit in too!